Ford Transit van review

Our Rating 
4.5
4.5/5.0
Price Range 
£20,795 - £33,145
2014 model
By KinyuKinr Test TeamComments

Terrific ride and handling an efficient range of engines means the Ford Transit is still a front runner

For 
Vast model range, polished road manners, high specification
Against 
Control interface, not the prettiest panel van, rivals offer larger versions

The Ford Transit van has become so established on British roads over the last 50 years, that like the brand ‘Hoover’ the name has slipped into common parlance as the generic term for white vans of a certain shape and size.

The truth is that nowadays the Transit van segment is more competitive and crowded than it has ever been before, with an array of rivals that includes the , , ,  and VW Crafter.

And whereas there used to be only a few models of the Transit for sale, Ford is now working the Transit name harder than ever. It has a range of compacts called the Transit Courier and  vans, as well as the medium-sized  van, all of which sit beneath Transit ‘proper’ range.

It’s that bigger Transit two-tonne range we’re talking about here though, and in keeping with tradition you can buy your Transit in a huge number of configurations including panel vans, tipper trucks, crew cabs, minibuses and chassis cabs. All told, and including wheelbase and roof height options, Ford reckons there are 450 different ways to order one.

• Read the latest new van reviews

In order to keep up with the competition, not to mention emissions regs, the Transit benefited from a range of updates in 2016 that included the adoption of EcoBlue TDCi engines which are Euro6 compliant. The latest Transit line-up also offers updated tech and safety kit, and the driving dynamics have been improved a little too.

The two key trim levels remain, so you can order a Transit Base or a Transit Trend. All of then come with remote central locking and electric windows, a 4-way adjustable driver’s seat, dual passenger seat, full bulkhead and a sliding side door. 

Transit Trend models add exterior features like fog lamps, projector-style headlamps and fancy wheel trims, a kitbag that includes Ford SYNC with a 4-inch TFT screen, cruise control, leather steering wheel, electric mirrors and extra cabin storage and a fold out table on the passenger seat.

You can also specify your Transit van in three different load lengths (L2, L3 and L4) two roof heights (H2 and H3). The biggest Transit Jumbo models still aren’t quite on the scale of its largest rivals but the Transit’s efficiency is a match for anything out there - as is the driving experience.

MPG and Running Costs

4.8

The price of fuel being what it is, every business is keen to use as little as possible and the Transit is well up to the task. The latest range is powered by Ford’s advanced 2.0-litre EcoBlue engines which offer a 13% fuel economy improvement over the old 2.2-litre engines and feature a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system. That means it uses AdBlue urea injections to get the Transit under the Euro 6 emissions standards. This means that all Transits now have a 21-litre AdBlue tank which will last around 6,000 miles before a refill is needed. 

Features like Ford’s Auto-Start-Stop, regenerative braking and a gear shift indicator contribute to that efficiency performance but so does the latest 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel found in all Transit models. The four-cylinder features an advanced combustion process with common-rail injectors operating at a pressure of 2,000 bar,  capable of making up to six fuel injections into the cylinder per cycle. There’s also low intertia turbocharging technology taken from Ford’s acclaimed EcoBoost petrol engines, reduced internal friction, and a built-in exhaust gas recirculation system. 

The powerful 168hp version manages 40.9mpg in the long wheelbase/medium roof (L3/H2) form with CO2 emissions of 179g/km. You don’t gain a huge amount by opting for the less powerful engines (the most frugal variant manages 42.2mpg) but the rear-wheel-drive models do increase fuel consumption. 

The drive to cut running costs in this Transit isn’t limited to the engine bay. The high-mounted lights, all-round body protection and multi-piece rear bumper were designed to minimise the chance of damage and cut the cost of repair should any mishaps occur. Service intervals of two years or 36,000 miles will go down well with operators as will a cut in the maintenance time needed over the first 93,000 miles to just 4.2hrs.

Insurance costs should be competitive too, and Ford has done its bit to keep your loads and personal items safe too. Remote central locking and anti-tamper shielded locks are standards, as are doors that lock as you drive off. There are two optional alarm systems, including a basic perimeter alarm and a more sophisticated Thatcham Category 1 system.

Load Space and Practicality

4

The Transit range is vast. There are panel vans, chassis cabs, drop-side trucks and minibuses. The vans offer gross vehicle weights from 2.9 tonnes to 4.7 tonnes in the Transit Jumbo and load volumes from 9.6 cubic metres to 15.1 cubic metres. Some of the Transit’s rivals go up as far as 17 cubic metres so that’s one area where the Ford falls slightly short.

Ford has worked to increase the usability of the Transit’s load area too. Little features like the bright LED lighting and the tough plastic load floor covers that extend up the walls of the van help, as does the wide step cut into the rear bumper.

The load space is more uniformly shaped than in the previous Transit so getting larger items inside should be easier. The doors open wide and there’s a handy catch inside the rear doors that releases them to open the full 180 degrees.

Reliability and Safety

4.3

Ford subjected this Transit to a rigorous testing programme that took in 680,000 miles of driving in the full range of conditions this global panel van is likely to encounter. Of that, 310,000 miles were undertaken in the hands of actual Transit customers who used the vehicle day to day and reported any issues. After all that, it certainly should be durable. Long term performance of the EcoBlue engines hasn't been confirmed outside of Ford's programme, of course.

It should be safe, too. Ford has fitted one of the most advanced ESC stability control systems ever seen on a van with a variety of add-on features specifically designed for commercial vehicles. There’s now Side Wind Stabilisation to help deal with crosswinds and Curve Control technology that can brake individual wheels to keep the Transit under control if it detects the driver entering a corner too fast. Load Adaptive Roll Stability Control negates the destabilising effect of a heavy load in the back and Trailer Sway Control helps keep a wayward trailer in check.

Even more impressive is the arrival in the Transit of Ford’s Pre-Collision Assist with pedestrian detection. Available from the options list, it can detect and warn the driver of an impending collision, preparing the braking system in advance, then apply the brakes automatically if no action is taken by the driver. 

In addition to that high-tech safety net, all Transits also get front, side and curtain airbags. Tyre pressure monitoring, lane-keeping assist, cornering headlights and a neat reversing camera that displays a colour image in the rear-view mirror are also available. 

Driving and Performance

5

There are three engine power options available with the Transit, all derivatives of the 2.0-litre EcoBlue common-rail diesel engine. Then customers have the choice of front, rear or all-wheel-drive.

The range-topping 168bhp version delivers excellent performance and flexibility aided by 405Nm of torque from just 1,750rpm. If you regularly approach your van’s payload capacity, this might be the engine to choose but even if you don’t its flexibility and superior refinement make it a highly desirable option. Even in 'Jumbo' H4 L3 form, the Transit can easily keep up with the flow of traffic with this engine. It speaks volumes that this unit has been fitted to the Transit first before it arrives in Ford's passenger cars. 

The next rung down the ladder is also the biggest seller, the 128bhp unit that delivers its maximum 385Nm at 1,500rpm. It needs to be worked harder to shift a moderately laden Transit and there’s an increase in engine noise as a result but it should prove more than adequate for most users. The final power option offers 104hp and 360Nm of torque, it’s a little more noisy again (purely due to the extra revs required) but the Transit remains pleasantly smooth and free of vibration in the cab. This engine will be in its element around town but may struggle a little with larger loads on the open road.

Refinement is generally a Transit strong point with all the engines staying very much in the background below the 3,000rpm mark. It’s the wind noise that comes through most at motorway speeds and even this is hardly intrusive for a van of this class.

The Transit’s suspension displays that well-oiled suppleness we’ve come to expect from Ford passenger cars. It irons out minor blemishes expertly and cushions the big jolts well too. The latest models have revised damper settings and the way the it eased over the bumps (with a 600kg load on board) during our test was very impressive for a large panel van.

• Best van to buy in 2016

The driver is presented with one of the jazziest steering wheels we’ve yet seen in a panel van. It’s small, tactile, features chrome inserts on the spokes and produces similarly polished responses from the Transit.

The revised electrically-assisted rack and pinion helm offers light weight, accuracy work and a tight 11.9m turning circle. Together with the impressive forward visibility it all makes this a very easy van to drive, even in its larger guises.  The dash-mounted gearshifter is a little notchy, but its slots positively into each ratio after the initial reluctance, and the revised suspension settings see the Transit resist body roll very well on faster roads. 

Cab and Interior

4.6

The Transit cab borrows heavily from Ford passenger cars in terms of design, with lots of familiar switchgear dropped in. In the interests of durability Ford has upped the toughness of the plastics and the result is a very solid-feeling environment that seems built to last.

The 4-inch central display screen that manages the infotainment functions is on the small side by modern standards, and the cluster of buttons below it on the dash take some mastering before simple tasks become intuitive.  The software is the Ford SYNC system and Bluetooth is included as standard, the generous equipment list is evidence of how far vans have come in the user-friendliness stakes. Operators can also select the Ford SYNC 2 navigation system from the options list and this brings a larger 6.5” touch screen interface that is far easier to use. 

Storage is pretty good, with lots of options for stowing small to mid-size items but the Transit may be found lacking in areas to plonk larger stuff.  It’ll have to go in the bin concealed under the passenger seat.

More importantly, the driving position seemed very comfortable and roomy, while the passenger seat too seemed a good place to sit out a long journey.   

Specifications

  • Power: 104bhp - 168bhp
  • Gross vehicle weight: 2.9 to 4.7 tonnes
  • Load volume: up to 15.1m3
  • Turning circle: 11.9m
Last updated: 
29 Apr, 2019